Retailers Post Mixed Sales in November


New York City The holiday shopping season got off to an uneasy start despite a big Thanksgiving weekend as consumers took advantage of big discounts and then pulled back, leaving retailers with mixed sales results for November.

As retailers reported their sales results on Thursday, warehouse club operators such as Costco Wholesale Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which pulled in crowds with early morning specials on Black Friday, proved to be winners, but plenty of mall-based apparel stores including Limited Brands Inc. and teen retailer Wet Seal Inc. had disappointing results.

Department stores such as Macy's reported robust sales, but that was in part because results were helped by a quirk in the calendar that resulted in an additional week after Thanksgiving falling into the month of November compared to December last year.

According to a tally by Thomson Financial, only seven merchants beat sales estimates, while 19 missed expectations.

Wal-Mart said its same-store sales rose 1.5% in November, beating the 1.2% estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Financial. Costco reported same-store sales rose 9% in the November period, fed by double-digit growth in its international segment.

Nordstrom, which had struggled in the fall, rebounded with an 8.7% gain in same-store sales, better than the 3.7% estimate.

Macy's reported that same-stores sales rose 13.4%, beating the 8.2% estimate. In a statement, Terry J. Lundgren, chairman, president and CEO, said the company benefited from colder weather and the calendar shift, which will hurt December figures.

Meanwhile, Limited had a 7% decline in same-store sales. Pacific Sunwear of California Inc. had a same-store sales increase of 2.3%, while Wet Seal's same-store sales declined 1.7%.

Not all teen retailers struggled. Aeropostale’s same-store sales climbed 6.6% in November, helped by "Black Friday" weekend and strong end-of-month sales.

Total sales for the period ended Dec. 1 surged 28.4% to $192.2 million from $149.7 million for the prior-year period ended Nov. 25.

In other results, Gap Inc. on Thursday said November same-store sales were flat as same-store sales rose at its Gap and Banana Republic chains.

Total sales for the four-week period ended Dec. 1 rose 11% to $1.54 billion from $1.39 billion last year.

Same-store sales rose 1% at Gap North America, 4% at Banana Republic North America and fell 3% at Old Navy North America stores. Year-to-date, same-store sales fell 4% and total sales rose 2% to $12.63 billion.

Ross Stores Inc. said its same-store sales rose 3% in November. For the four weeks ended Dec. 1, the company reported total sales of $547 million, a 10% increase over sales of $496 million in the period ended Dec. 2, 2006. Year-to-date, total sales are up 9% to $4.87 billion.

Target Corp. said its same-store sales rose in November, but missed estimates, and the company warned of waning traffic toward the end of the month.

Same-store sales in the four weeks ended Dec. 1 rose 10.8% vs. the year ago period ended Nov. 25, 2006. However, on a calendar-adjusted basis, same-store sales rose 1.1% compared to the four-week period ended Dec. 2, 2006.

So far this year, Target's same-store sales have risen 5.1%. Total sales have risen 10% this year to $48.1 billion so far this year.

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